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Mexico’s election protests continue

Marketplace Staff Aug 14, 2006

Mexico’s election protests continue

Marketplace Staff Aug 14, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: In Mexico, a partial recount of votes from the July 2 presidential election was due to be completed this weekend. Meanwhile, supporters of leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador kept up protests in the center of Mexico City, where Mr. Obrador addressed them yesterday. He promised to fight the imposition of what he called an illegitimate and illegal government. He claims fraud in the election, and he says his movement is ready resist for years if necessary. With us now from Mexico City is reporter Franc Contreras. Franc, where exactly are these protests taking place?

FRANC CONTRERAS: Well, they’re happening on the main avenue, on the main boulevard here known as Paseo de la Reforma, and it’s basically the heart of the financial district of Mexico. This is where the Mexican stock exchange is located, and major international banks have their Mexican headquarters there. Also, it’s taking place in the main square, which is a main tourism section in Mexico City, the main historic center where the Aztec pyramids are. Colonial era buildings are there. It’s an area where lots of luxury hotels exist, and all of those are losing business.

THOMAS: These protests have been going on for weeks now. How disruptive have they been?

CONTRERAS: Very disruptive, Mark. Really. Blocking off traffic here in the main part of the city, essentially cutting the city almost in half – one side to the other – because this main avenue does that. It runs north to south. And traffic has been blocked off through the main part of the city there, and people are really starting to get frustrated.

THOMAS: What effect are these protests having on the economy there?

CONTRERAS: The local economy has definitely taken the hit, especially tourism right now. Also, I should tell you – over the weekend, we saw the protest expanding to other parts of the country – to highways leading to Mexico’s three largest cities. Supporters of Mr. Lopez Obrador seized toll stations and let motorists enter those cities for free. In recent days, they also held protests in front of the federal government’s tax collection office. That didn’t harm tax collection because it’s not tax season here, but they’re definitely sending strong signals to the government.

THOMAS: Franc, Mr. Obrador seems to be in a fighting mood with comments like not accepting the imposition of what he’s calling an illegitimate government.

CONTRERAS: He’s definitely a fighter. He has a long history of street protests here in Mexico. In 1994 – when he ran for a governor’s race and lost that – he took the people to the streets. I should tell you, though, business seems to be fighting back. There is an association of restaurants and hotels here in the Mexican capitol, and they’ve said that they’re going to have their own counter-protests. What they’re going to do is stop paying taxes starting the month of August when all of this began, and that’s going to hurt the center-left party of the Democratic Revolution which runs the city government. It’s the same party that Mr. Lopez Obrador belongs to.

THOMAS: Courts are due to make an announcement very soon on this partial recount. Tell us more about that.

CONTRERAS: Well, the partial recount is very key in all of this right now. The Federal Electoral Tribunal will decide whether or not to expand that recount, or they could decide to name Felipe Calderon as Mexico’s president-elect. So this is a very key moment for Mexico.

THOMAS: Thanks a lot, Franc.

CONTRERAS: Thank you. Thank all of you.

THOMAS: Reporter Franc Contreras in Mexico City. And in Los Angeles, I’m Mark Austin Thomas. Thanks for joining us. Have a great day.

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